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Beats' picks: Can Duke men's basketball pull off the regular season sweep against North Carolina?

Wendell Moore Jr. was the hero in the last installment of the Tobacco Road rivalry.
Wendell Moore Jr. was the hero in the last installment of the Tobacco Road rivalry.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, No. 12 Duke will take on a sub-.500 North Carolina squad in its regular season finale. In the teams' Feb. 8 meeting, the Blue Devils came out on top in an instant classic. Will Duke be able to replicate that magic in Cameron Indoor Stadium?

Evan Kolin: Duke: 86-76

After last month’s meeting in Chapel Hill, we know to no longer underestimate these Tar Heels. But in the end, Duke is just the far more talented unit. Combine that with the fact that the Blue Devils have been dominant at home, and it’s looking like head coach Mike Krzyzewski will get his first regular-season sweep of North Carolina since 2015.

Winston Lindqwister: Duke 88-84

I’ve been dreading this matchup all week because it has upset written all over it. The Blue Devils look shaky coming into this contest, although Duke will have the benefit of taking this iteration of the Tobacco Road rivalry at home. While I’m convinced that the Blue Devils’ sometimes spotty offense won’t have much of a problem against a North Carolina squad with major struggles in maintaining defensive intensity, the Tar Heels’ offense is surging. Cole Anthony and Garrison Brooks have maintained their offensive production, but with the emergence of Christian Keeling, Brandon Robinson and Leaky Black, North Carolina has an attack that can score on anyone. Expect a high-scoring affair, with the Blue Devils edging out on the merit of playing at home.

Conner McLeod: Duke 86-75

From winning a road North Carolina game in double overtime in miraculous fashion to losing three of four games in a miserable span of two weeks, Duke has been unpredictable this season to say the least. Though it’s easy to write off the visiting, struggling Tar Heels, as the Blue Devils have been virtually impenetrable at home, Tobacco Road rivalry games are never that simple. I do not believe North Carolina has the depth or talent in the frontcourt to stop Vernon Carey Jr. and come away with a victory Saturday evening, however, I predict that Anthony will have a big night, willing his team to give Duke a challenge before the ACC tournament. 

Michael Model: Duke 82-70

The young Blue Devils were clearly fazed by the intensity of the rivalry in the teams’ first matchup before constructing two of the greatest last-minute comebacks in program history. Playing in front of the Cameron Crazies, I expect Duke to come out looking like a totally different team and control the pace from the outset. Cassius Stanley building off his second-half against N.C. State will be key for the Blue Devils, who I believe will actually be able to take advantage of a clear talent gap Saturday and cruise to a season sweep.

Glen Morgenstern: Duke 73-71

I predicted Wendell Moore Jr. as the MVP of Duke’s last matchup against North Carolina, to the laughter of my fellow beats. Lo and behold, Moore put in the game-winning shot of a lifetime to seal it for the Blue Devils. That said, anything can happen this time around. If Duke comes out strong, it will probably sweep the season series. But North Carolina has game plans for Carey and Tre Jones, so the Blue Devil supporting cast will have to carry Duke.

Derek Saul: Duke 78-72

All logic points to KenPom.com’s sixth-best team in the country breezing past a 13-17 team in its home arena. But Duke-North Carolina is no ordinary game, often throwing logical expectations to the wind. The Tar Heels are riding a three-game winning streak and are better than their record indicates, but I still expect the Blue Devils to take care of business. 

Shane Smith: Duke 85-79

I made the mistake of predicting a sizable Duke victory in the first meeting, and I should have known better than to bet against this rivalry. The Blue Devils are back in Cameron Indoor Stadium, meaning they’ll be at their best, however, North Carolina has been on a roll lately, winners of three straight. I have no doubts that the quartet of Carey, Jones, Brooks and Anthony will all come to play, but I trust Duke’s other pieces more to overcome a slow start in a close win.

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